the airplane to be released after reagan is inaugurated as a slap in the face to carter. carter, after reagan is inaugurated. i can't remember who was, they are flying back to georgia and carter turns to him and says if that happened if you hours earlier we would still be in washington instead of flying back in the plane. he really believed that could have been a turning point and it could have been. some of the -- we think of the reagan landslide as inevitable. we forget in september it was pretty even. where reagan and carter -- it is not until the final week after the famous debate between the two where reagan is pretty decisively a victor that the vote starts to swing dramatically to ronald reagan and this you read the diary of the personal which i do urge you to read, they are pretty
confident in septembers' that they have a good race on their hands and i don't think it is just because they're not sensing what is going on. i don't think the reagan landslide was as clear and inevitable as it later and looks to be. had carter been able to broker the agreement a month earlier, i think it could have had a big impact. this was the major foreign policy challenge of the day and carter had had them released early on, it could have had an impact. after the soviet invasion of afghanistan carter's polls shoot up instantly when he takes a very aggressive response to the soviet union. i think it could have helped. ..
>> jonathan soffer, associate history professor at polytechnic institute examed ed koch's time as mayor. mr. soffer recalls the three-term mayor political career and the redevelopment plans that the mayor put forward throughout his time. he's joined by ed koch at an event held in new york city. the program is one hour and 20 minutes. [applause] [applause] >> thank you. and thank you for joining us at a site of the national park service in new york. one the great treasures of new york city. let me introduce jonathan soffer. he grew up in albany, had the wisdom to move to manhattan. joined the democrats in 1977. certain things maybe forgiven. he got his doctorate from
columbia, now teaches history at nyu policy technics institute. i realized long ago if we start with henry's voyage, i've been covering new york city for more than 10% of its recorded history. they say that journalism is part of the history. some journalist have carried it to extremes. this is an story of a correspondent who went to the soviet union. he called his editor not that he had a story, but a full-length book. what's it called? and the record replied russia: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. that sort of squares with one the kids in alan bennett's play the history boy said. the student was asked to define history, to which he replied
more or less it's just one damn thing after another. john soffer's book is important not just because the new yorker forget the history and we are doomed to repeat it, it's important because it tells a lot about new york and provides some object lessons. the first time that i covered ed koch was probably not only after i got to the daily news in 1968. he fight have been a councilman or just elected to congress, he was in the the shelter uptown. he was going to expose the cruel way that animals were being euthanized. expect when the shelter explained the process, he changed his mind. he was persuaded he had been mistaken. it was the first time i met a public official willing to admit he was wrong. i knew then that ed koch was a
man of conviction. these days you have to be careful about describing someone that way, a man of conviction. but you know what i mean. [laughter] >> in 1977, nobody knew what kind of mayor he could make. he explained after writing one of his early books, i'm not an author, but before i became mayor, i wasn't a mayor. a lot of benchmarks distinguished his mayor years. but another one occurred to me just the other day. ed koch, i think, was the last mayor who laughed. he genuinely seemed to be having a great time doing his job. [laughter] [applause] >> he can laugh at himself. at "the times" i checked, i've written 448 articles that mentioned ed koch, which is terrifying to me, if not to him.
when he was 83, he told me he planned to stay in manhattan for good. he purchased a burial plot. in 84, he told me he had a tomb stone. he insisted he no longer carries any grudges, maybe just a few. [laughter] >> he issued an apology or two, even confessed to a few regrets as mayor, and this year he launched a revolution. a purge of the state legislature, by taking aim at incumbents. you judge a mayor, i think, by the mess that he inherits, by what he hoped to accomplish, and how close he came to fulfilling his agenda. ken jackson recalled that mayor koch inherited a city that was in worse state financially than
the one was elected laguardia, who was considered, of course, the gold standard of mayors. jonathan soffer writes koch faced challenges better than any new york mayor, producing quite simply the greatest turn around accomplished by any of them. sure, he made people angry too. but soffer writes, that anger soul not be allowed to obscure his accomplishments that touch one the greatest crises in new york city, and kept it solvent and growing for a generation into the city that we all have today. thank you, and please welcome jonathan soffer and ed koch. [applause] [applause] >> thank you, sam. that was a beautiful introduction. i wanted to start the discussion
tonight by just reading a few paragraphs from my introduction. hopefully this will tempt you to read more. by the end of his first term within koch was able to balance the city's budget. a feat that vastly exceeding expectations in 1977. by the end of his second term, he could launch a locally financed $5.1 billion, ten-year program to rebuild huge areas of the city, including the south bronx, and make them economically viable for the long term. the restoration of credit and the renewed economic growth enabled the city to borrow again and restore to elected officials the power to choose key projects rather than leaveing the decision to unelected power brokers like felix and the prayer partner who headed the municipal assistant corporation. by the time koch left office in
1990, the population of the city had increased more than 7% -- i'm sorry more than 3% despite the severe recession, and the burned out prairie in the south bronx, so-called prairie, was filled with newly built houses. by 2006, new york's population had sored -- soared to a record 8.6 million largely as a result of policies laid out by the koch administration. koch pioneered the democratic party version of neoliberalism. which privileged corporate capital, but also allowed for government intervention to shape and subsidize private enterprise. he remained dividend about creates new programs for redistribution or social insurance that might burden future expense budgets. the most stunning examples are
-- is his housing program. but koch also poured hundreds of millions of dollars into tax abatements to subsidize construction of office building and to keep corporate headquarters from leaveing the city. such construction was one the primary engines of growth left in new york after the long period of deindustrialization after the significant source of minority employment. but determining whether the city ultimately got it's money's worth is difficult from the tax abatement because few data exists to show whether the incentives altered the behaviors of developers. he was a free wheeling show make and a hard-working policymaker. his rhetoric and policy it is not always cohere. when observers tried to sum up his ideology, they resorted to paradoxes, for example, one historian maintains that koch, quote, talked like a republican
sometimes, but governors like a new dealer. more precisely, his procorporate policies made the rich richer even though he tried with less success to make the poor, poorer. he trumpeted the death penalty and initiatives in the cities jails. he was a reformer who derived the democratic machine of much of it's patronage, and he made deal with county leaders that he regretted when they turned out to be crooks. he also criticized some of the judges so harsh they feared he had compromised their independence. koch prided himself on his ability to make alliances with italian catholics as mayor, and with southern whites and conservative republicans during his years in congress.
he failed to build alliances with many black leaders in his own hometown. he was a reaganite when he joined labor unions for much the fiscal crisis and maintained a leadership with labor. unlike president ronald reagan, and i think to his credit, koch promoted orderly collective bargaining. koch's contradictions reflected the tensions inherent in governing urban populous in race, class, and ethnicity. from the start, koch's biggest political challenge could be termed the pothole paradox. while they were worried about balancing the budget, most residents experienced the crisis in the loyalty and rising crimes in a city that had laid off thousands of police and nearly
all of it's street cleaners. many stations leaked. some were near collapse. the bumpy streets damaged them either further. dirty streets and crime were fused in popular culture, as in the tag line for 1991 stephen segall thriller. he's a cop, he's a dirty job, but somebody has to take out the garbage. along those lines, sam wrote a very generous review of my book in "the times." one the things that he said was that i has raised ed to olympian heights. part of the job of being mayor is that someone has to take out the garbage. as david said in the famous lindsey commercial, it's the second toughest job in america. so when my editor said olympian heights, isn't that kind of high? i pointed out the highest any
mayor can get is the highest point in new york city, which is the top of the fresh kills landfill. [laughter] >> all right. well, that's a start. >> is it my turn? >> your turn. [laughter] >> first i want to. go ahead. [applause] [applause] >> first i want to say to sam, sam roberts, not because he was so nice in his introduction of the two of us, but because it's the truth. the fact is there are lots of reporters in this town, and some might like some of the others. most of them hate one another. but there isn't anyone who doesn't respect sam robert's integrity. [applause] >> and it's extraordinary. and very grateful for the many times you've covered the administration, the good
columns, the bad come how -- bad columns, they were always honest columns. i'm very grateful. let me -- i don't want to speak more than the authors speaks. so i'll try to do the same time that he does. i've been dealt a wonderful hand. i'm 85 years old now. i probably have two or three years left. i have no fear of death. i've had many medical incidents, i've had heart attacks, stroke, quadruple bypass, when cardinal egan came to see me on the last occasion which was just a year ago june, i was in the hospital. and they thought i wouldn't pull through on two occasions. i was in after six weeks. five of six weeks were in the
intensive care section, which is a very long time. and so cardinal egan came to see me. and i said, you know, your em nans, if god wants to take me today, tomorrow, he may need some legal advise. i have no fear. i'll go very quietly. he said have no fear, your rates are too high. [laughter] >> it was rather sweet. it was rather sweet. [laughter] >> i would use that also to tell you what i've tried all of my life to do professionally is to bring catholics and jews closer together. it's been part of my professional life and my personal life. i probably -- i have gone to st.
patrick's cathedral for more than 40 years midnight mass. i'm a very proud jew. i'm secular, i believe in god. there was a thought at some point amongst catholics that i was considering conversion. i said it's more likely that john cardinal will convert than i will. [laughter] >> i had a wonderful relationship cardinal o'connor as well. for me, that's always been the most important part of my professional life. to try to bring catholics and jews closer together. in the interim, i've had the good fortune to be elected to city council. first job that i got was an election for district leader
where carl minasapia was trying to make a comeback. i beat him by 41 votes. it projected me. it was david beating goliaht. from that point on, i was involved. i had a marvelous time. great experience as a member of congress. but you can't get things really done as a member of congress. it's more a talking job. things that should be done. but you are not an executive. but as mayor you can. it's the greatest job imaginable? why? because people with respect to the governor, president, they
don't see them as part of themselves, as an extension. the mayor is an extension of every citizen of the city. that's the way they see it. you belong to them. i loved it. i absolutely loved it. and i think that whatever success i've had. i've had success. i'm very proud of what i've done. obviously, some failures as well. what made it possible in my judgment, because i'm an ordinary, i'm not being missed on the humble pie. if there's one thing this is, i am not humble. i recognize my limitations. i'm an ordinary guy. i'm an able administrator, intelligent, but lots of those people. there are lots of those people. like harry truman.
i like to think of myself as in the mold of harry truman. an ordinary guy that rose to the occasion given the opportunity. responsibility. i sense myself in the course of my 12 years as mayor when things for difficult, look, there are lots of people out there who are much smarter than you and could have done a better job as mayor. they didn't have the balls to run. those that did run, the people thought you were better. so now just give it your best. and that's it. and that's what i did. that's what made it possible, plus, a sense of humor. i like to think not only have a sense of humor, but it saved me many times. and when you could easily become depressed, and if you are depressed, you can't get anything done. you've got to be constantly
aware, alive, respectful, that's the other very important aspect of being a public officer. and in the sense that we're talking about. respectful of the rights of others. now respectful of the rights of others doesn't mean that you lay down and roll over. i mean the best illustration when i was a member of congress, i used to come in early and look at the mail bags. and i would take out 20 letters. nobody else was in the office. i always got to the office at 7:30, or whatever job i had. and i'd read the mail, and i would see what people, interested in. i used to get enormous amount of mail as a congressman. i was the congressman from the 17th stocking district called goal coast. lindsey once had that district.
and i was asked to go out to some western state to help some member of congress out there. and i spent weekend on a farm that fattens up cows. and the farmers, what are the issues that are important in your district? so i said i can tell you with accuracy. because i read my mail. i said the first issue is save the whales. the second issue is save the dolphins. and the third one is save the jews. and in that order. sop once again, just to give you a feel of what i did and how i loved doing it.
i don't look back and say i miss it. i don't. i told you i'm very active. i have a radio show. i'm a partner in a law firm. i have a television show. i write a commentary every week. and if you want the commentary, it's free. you give me your e-mail at the end of this meeting, and you will have it tomorrow. i also am a movie reviewer. you'll get that as well. we're in for a good evening, thank you for coming. >> thank you, ed. >> i want to emphasize some of as sam did in his introduction, some of the enormous difficulty ies that mayor koch faced when he took office in 1978. the capital budget of the city
had almost been entirely shut off. ed actually could quote the exact figure $350 million. which sounds like a lot of money. there was all of the money there was for fixing the entire -- for repairing anything in the whole city that year. and if you think of how much it cost to fix things in your house and multiply that out by 8 million, you realize that this is a tiny, tiny fraction of what the city needed to keep the infrastructure in good shape and keep going. even know we have billions now, it's still not enough. many bridges are in bad shape. we still don't repair things as quickly as we ought to. and it had been like this for several years. those of us who lived in thety
-- in the city then, can remember that it was a marvel anything was working. i always use to marvel is the red lights would change. [laughter] >> so the first problem that ed faced was hard are you going to fund the rebuilding of this city? the -- how are you going to restore the city's credit? and he went to congress. and asked them for loan guarantees. and those -- this didn't cost the federal any money. in fact, the federal government made a tiny profit of a couple of -- 7% of the -- and he went to the white house.
which was the carter administration. the carter administration said you'll never get it. it had to come from the house of representatives, it had made alliances with both parties, and showed a certain amount of just sheer genius in the selection of order of witnesses. i thoughting with -- i thought, well, you know, who's going to go first? who are are they going to have go first? the first two people that ed got to go testify, i'm sure it was because he had personal relationship with these people were two republican congressman. very, very canny move. and they are testified before the senate committee, senator
pro xmeyer, and senator brooks said there was no way they were going to let the loan guaranteed go through the senate. and he can -- and i think perhaps ed koch's greatest triumph as mayor and what enabled his accomplishments was that he convinced them. he got it through the house and senate. and even jimmy carter was completely stunned by this. jimmy carter wasn't as good as getting legislation through congress as ed was. this does not mean that everything was sweetness and light in new york city as we all know in the 1970s. we all had to live with the disastrous effects of the austerity, and the earlier decisions by the ford administration not to really give the city the kind of -- the
kind of capital that had needed to maintain itself. in order to restore the city's credit, the mayor had to take the city through four years of -- i'm sorry three years of additional deep, deep austerity. and to increase that pain. that's something that i hope, at least, you know, obviously there are times when the budget has to be cut. but that kind of reduction of the street cleaning, i remember at the time, i said to bobby wagner who is councilman, bobby, why do the intersection flood every time it rains?
bobby always knew the answer. it's because there's only one catch basin cleaner, the machine that cleans out those sewers at the intersection of the streets that's left for all of manhattan. that gives you an idea of, you know, levels of government service going down -- of service delivery going down to level that is are truly, truly disastrous. and if we came back, you know, another story, police commissioner mcguire told me that one night he got a call from his deputy, there was only one patrol car for queens. and he sent some over from manhattan. that gives you an idea of what the effects of that kind of deep budget cutting is. it's not small government. it's not efficient. it's inefficient, and it's ugly and it's dirty. and so as we head into advocacy of further types of austerity,
it bodes us well to think -- to realize that the things that government does are not always full -- are not all corrupt, but government provides basic services. and what i want to ask ed is this: a lot of people say that there was a differential allocation of services to different neighborhoods as the city was recovering. i'm sure you heard this, one the things that ed did was venture into every neighborhood in the city in regular town meetings and, you know, let people scream at him. and they did scream. so how did that get allocated? >> i will tell you. i actually had in my 12 years,
1120 town hall meetings. there are 59 plans board districts. and i went to many of them, at least three times. every one of them one or two times. and there wasn't a district that i wouldn't go to. and some were very supportive. middle class was very supportive of me. because i said everybody wants to be middle class. the militants, the advocates who hated me, he's the middle class mayor. i said, yes, that's true. everybody wants to be middle class. the poor want to be middle class. i'm going to try to make that happen. but i also said it's important to keep bridge city in the new york. they have a lot of money. they have the entrepreneurs in
many respects. they want them to invest. they have two or three houses. they can fly the coop at any time. therefore, i have to be very respectful of their comfort in a sense. and so when people said, why are you fixing the roadbed on park avenue? i said because if we don't fix it, they are going to leave. they pay a lot of rent. and if they think they are getting shafted, and not being attended to, and that all that we are going to spend money on is the poor, that are going to leave. and our budget was $13 billion. i don't know what it is today. it's probably $60 -- i don't really know. billion. i wanted them to stay. the budget that we had, the $13
billion when all of the complaints were coming. the thing that i always insisted on when a charge was made by a reporter in a column, or a letter to the times or any of the other newspapers that i thought was unfair, all is unfair, i insisted that we correct the record by a letter from the -- if possible, not bad, but most of the time they wouldn't take in. but they would take a letter. the reason was that if you don't a letter of some sort when a reporters column is just plain wrong. the next reporters will use that column if it's not been contest ed as fact. and while many times reporters will not acknowledge their error
, the letter that i sent appears in the morgue which they refer to when they write their articles. and they will at least see our opposition and question what was said before. probably unlike most mayors, i used responding to it fairly well. i still do. if i see something that's unfair, i will seek to correct it. but i have -- and when i -- we repaired the streets on park avenue. people said you are favoring the rich. i said i don't think we are favoring them. i know if we don't repair those park avenue streets where the rent is so incredible, they are going to leave. i was willing to take the heat. more important than that, i had wonderful people that i brought into government.
exceptional. and they are still in government today. the current mayor brought a lot of them back. just as i brought a lot of them back from the lindsey administration. i was not an admirer of john lindsey. although i voted for him. i was an admirer of the people who worked for his administration. i look forward every year in the month of december, they chose that month -- because that's the month of my birthday when the commissioners all get together. 200 deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners. we have a party. and 200 are included, and 200 come. what is so incredible about talking with them is they remember their days as commissioner -- deputy commissioner, as the most vital
and satisfying days of their professional lives. just as i do. they loved it. and part of it was my management style. my management style was the following: if i appointed you, i believed you knew more about your field than i did. otherwise i don't need you. and if you, in fact, know more and you do the job, i said to each commissioner, you are going to make mistakes and lots of stuff is not going to turn out. but i want you to be innovative and i want you to know that when the press attacks you, as they will, that's their job. i don't find fault with that. i will stand up in the blue room with you and i will take the blame. i will take the blame. i won't let it crush you. that made them feel terrific. it made them feel in charge,
which they were. and it allowed them to be innovative. so i was very lucky in what i did. i want to make one comment as it relates to what jonathan said. i'm still for the death penalty. let me ask without you having to answer, how many people do you answer? do you follow that case up in connecticut? where the three people were murdered? and there's no requirement that you speak. [laughter] >> now the three people raped women and were murdered. they are now going through a question as to whether or not they execute him. i hope they execute, only one guy that was tried, the next one will be tried shortly. i don't believe the death penalty should be used flagrantly. i believe it should be used in very special cases. and i've always felt that way.
we've lost the battle. many of you ask people today there's a majority in the country that supports the death penalty. but the major newspapers and lots of people, i don't fault them. you can be on both sides of this issue and be moral. they have won saying life imprisonment without parole is worse than the death penalty. it doesn't make any difference. i believe we have lost the battle. doesn't mean we have to give up. i'm not. so i speak out about it. and that's that aspect of it. the first commissioner that i
appointed was the police commissioner, bob mcguire. great police commissioner. his father was a detective. he was very much involved in cases involving cops. generally defending them and the actions involving a shooting so that they had engaged in it. and i thought it was just marvelous. when we announced it, and i went out to this press conference and there was gabe pressman, he's still around. like me. still around. [laughter] [applause] >> only his hair is darker. [laughter] >> and it ain't real. i said, ladies and gentlemen, bob mcguire, new police
commissioner. gabe pressman says, mayor, isn't this part of the old irish mafia? i turned to bob and i put my arm on his shoulder. i said, bob, you told me you were jewish. he turned and put his arm on my shoulders. no, mayor, i didn't say that. i told you i looked jewish. end of story. of course, when i was writing the book i said to ed did you know your second police commissioner, benjamin moore, who was the first african-american commissioner grew up speaking yetish fluently? he said no. >> well, it was the accent. >> anyway. but the problem is as you said you took the heat.
but when you fix the -- when you fix the pavement on park avenue and you don't fix the pavement on 125th -- -- >> because you don't have the money. >> because you don't have the money. and you don't have the money year after year, people start to get angry. >> sure. >> and it starts to make you -- and it becomes a racially divisive issue. and it maintains the quality of life for the wealthy and garbage and the pavement, the quality of the streets, declined in the poorest social -- i'm sorry. basic city services declined in the poorest areas. you can't be accused of plan
shrinkage. when the story was over, you did the opposite. you rebuilt the city. but it didn't look that way in , say, 1983. how did you attempt to deal with that anger and with that division in the city? >> i'll just respond to that briefly. so you can continue. there were constant attacks, say your balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. that was the line. in fact, horton, ray horton, who was an advocate with another academic wrote a book. in their press release, they said -- he balanced the budgets on the backs of the poor.
it isn't in the book. he did not say that in the book. he said it in the press release. i called him in. i said where in your book, because i knew it wasn't there, do you support this premise that we balanced the budget on the backs of the poor? well, mayor, we didn't say that. but it's in your press release. and that's what the room 9 reporters are going to use. why don't you go down there and say it's not in your book. well, we're not really good at press relations. really? [laughter] >> as a result of that, i never, ever participated in anything ray horton was in charge of. he was in charge of the -- he's the director of citizens budget commission. they would have dinners and they would invite me. mayor is the big guy on the block. i said, no, i will not come. so we always had to fight that.
what i said to our budget people, i said break down the budget. show how much goes for the poor. i had a wonderful budget director, jim brigham. just wonderful. he came from missouri. he was with morgan stanley, i think. he was lent to the city under the beam. we had wonderful people in the budget office. i had probably six people that i could have picked. i picked him for the following reason. i said, the congress which like me because i was there, and they got to know me and tip o'neil said the legislation that jonathan referred to, the
lending the city $1.650 million. they did it because of me. they wanted me to succeed. i said they don't like new yorker. they hate new yorker. they hate new yorkers because they think they are all jewish. i mean i'm -- it's a fact. i mean it's not anti-semitism. i'm not making that allegation. i'll tell you they don't like the attitude that new yorkers have. it's too brash for them. and so i said to myself, if we want their corporation, we got to get somebody that they identify with. that they are automatically going to believe. and i said this guy from missouri, they are going to believe him. and in addition he looks like a second lieutenant from the british army in the first world war. so that's aside from his
brilliance. they were all brilliant. there were six or so that i could have taken. he was somewhere that i believed that would automatically believe. identification, you know? midwest. that sort of thing. and it worked out that way. i asked him, i said, jim, how do we convince people that we are not balancing the budget on the backs of the poor? we are allocating as best as we can. he says easy mayor. he said 25% of the budget goes to education. 25. the school system was 83% black. or black and hispanic. whites had fled the system. so 25% of our budget, total budget was going basically to minorities. and they were the poor in the city overwhelmingly.
he said another 25% goes to the human resources administration. they don't give money to middle class people. only goes to poor people. so that's 50% of the budget right off of the top goes to poor people, said he. and then if you take every other service, like sanitation, -- we put more money in the poor neighborhoods because there's more trash to pick up. they don't have concierge people. it's on the street. there are more fires in the poor parts of this town than there are in the rich parts of this town. cops.
you put the cops where the crime is. the crime is in the poor neighborhood. it's the poor people that are being killed and assaulted. the cops are there to save him. so if he went through every one of the approximately 50 services that the city provides, overwhelmingly, the moneys spent were going to help support poor people. senior citizens, they are poor. large numbers are minority, large numbers are white. but they are poor. after he put all of those figures together showing that more than 2/3 of the operating budget was spent on poor people overwhelmingly minority, he said we've made the case but nobody is going to believe it. because it's not what they want to hear. is it just not what they want to
hear or is it a difference between looking at the situation from those numbers and the lived experience of being in a very difficult city school in harlem or bedford or on the upper west side for that matter. the lived experience of having vacant lots that are full of garbage, and the cities not make the owners clean it up. the lived experiences of not having those services is different from the way it looks on the budget. which you know because you were out there. and i think that, you know, enough money to do what you and i and the people who were living in those neighborhoods would like to see done. and there never will be. we did the best we could with the moneys that were available and of the moneys that were
available, not enough. 2/3 of that money went to heaven -- went to help the poor people of this town. we never expected it would convince anybody. i wanted it on the record. it is on the record. >> by the way, on the ray horton thing, as with many things, i interviewed ray horton for the book. and so both versions of the story, ed's and his are in the book. what did he say that was different than what i said? what did he said? >> i think he said it's not in the press release. to tell you the truth, i'd have to look it up in the index. i don't think we have time. >> i'm telling you, i said to you, i don't think he could deny it, we didn't put it in the book. we put it in the press release. when i asked him to tell the press that, he said, no, we
don't feel comfortable with the press. something along those lines. that's what he said. let's see, where should we go? sure. >> probably one of the most difficult -- one of the most difficult decisions that ed had to make -- and one the most difficult agencies to handle and the administration before it found people who could run the agency went through several people who were mail yaws at running the agency. and it was one of the -- it was probably the toughest position to fill of all of the agencies. and the key one, health care was probably -- and one the thesis of the book was that health care
cost and the failure of the various federal administrations in the 1970s and 1980s to federalize the cost of health care as ed koch proposed in 1980 and as the democratic party advocated in it's platform in 1980, really contributed mightily to the cost of the fiscal crisis. now any budget is what we call over determined. that means that there are a whole bunch of factors even any one of which by itself can push the budget over the limits. but if you look at the cost of -- and this is documented in my book. if you look at what new york city was paying through it's share for medicaid, plus the amount of subsidy that had paid to health and hospitals corporation, the city hospitals agency, to pay for care for
uninsured people that ran from -- for every year of the koch administration, that ran from 40% of the budget gap and for several, and for a couple of years, exceeded 100% of the budget gap. in other words, for some years, the entire budget gap could be attributed to paying for costs for health care costs for uninsured people. in order to bring those costs down, very difficult decisions have to be made. no politicians wants to close hospitals. politicians want to open hospitals. and some of the cities hospitals like everything else the city was running were in very, very bad shape, indeed. now there's a hospital -- there was a hospital in harlem called sidham hospital. it was historically important in the black community because it was the first black that allowed
african-american physicians admitting privileges. there was a huge milestone. and it was controversial. another historicically black hospital, a private one, arthur logan had just closed a few months before. >> not with me. >> under beam. and so other mayors had kept sidham open even though the quality of care there for emergency services was not great as ed will tell you the chief medical officer of the hospital was a dennist. -- dentist. and it wasn't accessible to the handicap. so there were man gee ryal reasons for
closing the hospital. some of the implications for both black patients and for the black middle class, there was a very politically sensitive topic. and so mayor lindsey had kept it open, mayor beam, and when ed was running for reelection -- i'm sorry, when he was running for election in the run off in 1977, and ed got the support of the main political leadership in harlem, patterson, charlie rangel, carl mccall, and other leaders, fred samuels, and in part because he had promised to keep sidham open. he gets to be mayor and sees the full situation and he says this
is a terrible hospital. we're going to close it. but this has horrible political repercussions because they had a constituency to represent. they had gotten a promise from ed, and as they saw it, he broke that promise. >> it's true. >> and the result was enormous, not only enormous demonstrations at the time, there was a sit in at the hospital, big demonstrations around the hospital, eventually it closed. but it created a tremendous -- it created a lingering distrust and lingering bad relations between koch and leaders of the black community. charlie rangel in the course of
this, the rhetoric got quite over the top. charlie rangel at one point compared mayor koch to bull connor. because he was mad. and what he was really mad about was, you know, he told ed at one point, you made me a district leader again. i have to be here fighting for this damn hospital. i can be a lot more effective paying attention to the ways and means committee in washington for the city. so ed has a strong sense of justice, he hued to what seemed to be the right man tierian decisions, in terms the politics of the city and race, it was a decision that had political cost
to fix up the hospital, which eventually actually they spent in a more affluent time, somebody spent the $6 million. there's a clinic that columbia runs in the basement of what is now condos. >> okay. it was a very painful moment in time. you have to understand that new york city then had 17 city hospitals and no other city in the country, chicago, l.a., philadelphia, had more than one. we had 17.
>> not the hospital, but the city which would include the hospitals as well. and i was told by our professionals that for 30 years every mayor -- wagner, lindsay, beam -- had, every one of them had said, we're going to close this hospital. and then because of the counterpressure and the anger said, no, and we decided that we would open four clinics in place of the hospital, and the hospital had such a bad reputation that probably not accurate, but the cops would say
if i'm shot in the foyer of sidenham, get me out of there. [laughter] that's what they said. and the other probable myth but nevertheless believed was that no one had ever survived thoracic surgery at that hospital. [laughter] so the medical people said, close it. the budget people said, close it. i said, okay. i will do it. yes, i'm violating a commitment i made, but it doesn't make any sense to keep that commitment, and i'm not really violating it because i'm opening four clinic clinics. it's not like removing, you know, medical care from the neighborhood. we were going to provide better medical care. and when we tried, for example, to upgrade medical care by having the physicians at
sidenham affiliate with columbia presbyterian and go through as though there were a wing of columbia presbyterian and report to the chiefs at columbia presbyterian, the sidenham chief said, no, we're not going to give up our chiefs, you know? every hospital has a chief in different departments. so it was, to upgrade it -- made reference to it, it didn't have an entrance on the ground floor. you had to carry a stretcher up a staircase to get into the hospital for the emergency cases. it can't go on that way. and so i decided, yes, we will close it. well, there was an enormous storm. the person i felt most badly about was the city councilman,
fred -- >> samuel. >> fred samuel. he was a wonderful man. he's now dead. i tried to explain it to him, and obviously, he's very nice, but it was a wound. okay. so we closed it. there were riots and sit-ins and we, ultimately, prevailed. just a brief episode, the police commander who went in to take repossession of the hospital which was empty except for the sit-ins of people, maybe 15 of them, he -- we had cut off electricity, he opens the door at midnight, and he says, don't be afraid. you know me, i'm so and so. i won't hurt anybody, and the lights are on. and he said, we're gonna take you out, and you have to come peacefully. we don't want anybody hurt. this is what he told me happened the next day.
and they said, we have to caucus. so they caucused, and they came back and said, we'll go out, but you have to carry us out. we're not going to walk out. and one of the sit-ins, a minister was very heavy, like about 300 pounds. [laughter] and he just lays down, and bracey who was the commander, a wonderful man, said to him could you lay down closer to the door? [laughter] and he did. he accommodated. [laughter] and then they said, are there any television cameras out there? understandably, they wanted, you know, they're getting out, but they want a bunch of publicity. and the chief didn't lie, he said, yes, we have a television camera. the the "cops" camera, and they
were taken out, and it was rather peaceful. now, i tended a seminar -- attended a seminar where five or six people who'd been appointed by governor pataki were examining the state hospitals and how many should be closed because we're overbedded. it's very expensive. every bed, whether it's occupied or not, costs money to maintain. and steve berger was the chairman of that particular committee, and he was at this 'em far. and i was present because they were sell rating -- celebrating the museum of the city of new york, had an exhibit on my administration. and they said, do you have a question? i was in the audience. and i said, yes, did i do the right thing, said i, in closing
sidenham hospital? and every one of them said, absolutely. but i didn't. why? because the intollic value -- symbolic value to the black community was far more important than the -- i think it was actually clash 9 million that we saved -- $9 million that we saved aside from the health care. but it's it was the most costly per-patient hospital in the system. i could have been a hero in the black community if i had saved it. instead, i said, no, the medical care's bad, and we're wasting $9 million. i was on several programs a long time ago in which i said what's the worst thing you did -- they said what's the worst thing you did in terms of regret? and i said, closing sidenham. no one answered the question, i
volunteered it because i believe it was the worst thing that i ever did from the point of view symbolism is sometimes more important than substance. >> now, unfortunately, nobody told us what the time limit is. >> why don't you take questions. >> yeah. it's a quarter of eight. i think we should take some questions. >> mr. mayor, if someone asked me a close friend who left town at the end of your regime and came back in 2010 asked me what changes have taken place in new york in terms of the pace, the social life, the problems, the general palpable and visceral changes that you can observe tug that, during that period from ed koch's term of office to today, would you comment on what those
might be? thank you. >> well, firstly, new york city is -- new york city is is so far ahead of any other city in america as it relates to coming out of recessions and being, ultimately, able to resume where it was when it was at the peak of its career in a very positive way. when you look at the city today and you read that 10% of all the jobs created in the united states in the last quarter were created in new york city, that's incredible. just incredible. i think new york city's population is about 3% of the united states, and so we're way ahead in terms of prosperity current and yet to come. but the most important thing that mayor bloomberg has done which he gets very little credit
for is he's changed the whole tone of race relations in this city. there, to the best of my knowledge, there simply is no racial problem in this city. there was not just that which we referred to under my administration for the reasons i've given you, but under giuliani, under david dinkens. it was there. mike bloomberg changed it, and the question always will exist, how did he do it? it's his personality. he's not -- he's a man of vision, but he's also a person who is a great technician and does not show great emotion. and that's helpful.
that's simply helpful. it's not apocryphal, i think, to illustrate how he did this once. early on when he entered city hall, al sharpton was coming out. and he went over to him and introduced himself. that was wonderful to do. now, al sharpton and i are very good friends. wherever we're together, the first thing he will say to people is he made me famous. he arrested me. [laughter] and it is true in 1978. he came down to city hall, and he didn't have an appointment. i said, i'll see him anyway. i went into the blue room, what can i do? i didn't know him well, reverend. and he brought in about 25 other black ministers, and he said, we're here with a petition that we want you to sign, and i said, can i read it?
now. i can't take it with me? read it now. all right. so i read, and it is you promise to give all summer jobs, the federal government provided 60,000 summer jobs to the city which were minimum wage and what i did to change what they did before me, i put it all on the computer, and there was a lottery. whereas before i came in you assigned the jobs to people, and they gave it out. and i remember a priest said to me, we know who the good kids are! we want to give those jobs out. so i wanted to mock 'em, and i said, father, there are no bad kid. of course, that's a lie. [laughter] but the fact is that i thought fairness required to be distributed on a lottery basis.
sign up everybody, there were 120,000 kids who signed, only 60,000 would get jobs. lottery. no favoritism. so i said, i can't do that. i can't do that. and then he said, the second one was that you commit yourself i think it was to $50 billion in reparations to the black community for slavery. so i tried to dissuade him from continuing by saying, let me take it. i'll get back to you. no, don't sign it, i'm going to sit could be, i'm not going to let -- down, i'm not going to let anybody in or out of your office. i said, you can't do that. you can picket outside on the steps. >> nope. he sits down. so the police officer is standing there, and i say to them, to the police officer,
remove 'em. well, nobody at city hall had ever been told to remove anybody. [laughter] and the police officer whispers to me, "what if they resist?" [laughter] >> i say, have you never heard the word, "arrest"? arrest them! and they were arrested. then i got telegrams from every member of congress. how dare you arrest these floor black miner ifs -- ministers. how dare you! i'm saying to myself, this is crazy stuff. you can't allow lawlessness at city hall and the prevention of access by others who want to see the major and other commissioners who are in the hall. but in any event, sharpton and i over the years became good friends and have worked on and currently working on a project. and when he ever talks about it,
he says one made me famous and, two, he never stopped talking to me. which was true. i always reached out. i'm very proud of that. so too long an answer to a very short question. the city's in far greater shape, good shape than it's ever been outside of the effects of the recession but compared with the rest of the united states. >> all right. next question. >> [inaudible] >> you've got to go to the mic. also i'm deaf, partially, so you've not to have the mic. >> i just want to talk about that very difficult situation with eleanor bumpers. you handled it well, i just want to tell you that. >> well, a lot of people thought
i didn't. the el nor bumpers situation was simply this. this was a woman who was behind in her rent, a recluse perceived as in need of mental assistance. rumor had it she was cooking lye to resist the cops who might be coming in to her apartment to evict her. and they came in, and she -- i think there was three cops that came in. and she attempted to stab with a big bread knife and under the protocol and ben ward was the police commissioner, under the protocol there was one officer who had, i think, a shotgun. that was their protocol. and who when she sought to stab
the police officer, he shot her, and he killed her. very sad. terrible. and the case -- every time there is a shooting, not just a killing, a shooting by a cop, it goes to the district attorney, and my recollection is -- you remember this a long time ago -- that there was an indictment and a trial, and the cops -- the one who shot -- was exonerated. now, the police officer was found to have protected another police officer from being injured which is -- [inaudible] now, why was it that there wasn't some other way to deal with this? by the way, eleanor -- she was clearly in need of help. the bathtub was filled with feces, i mean, it was awful. my recollection she said ronald
reagan had put it there. >> well, she was -- >> i mean, it was there, but she was clearly someone who needed a good keel of help. >> right. >> and, you know, the background of the case, i think, was really tragic, and i think that one of the reasons people reacted strongly against the administration at the time was because, clearly, the social services had not been held up the way it should have been to help somebody who was in that -- >> well, i would say the reason they didn't use another method to remove her. i mean, there were some i'd just rather stay there. >> right. >> how do you let somebody stay there in their feces and not eating? maybe that's not the humane way to approach someone who was in need of assistance. but what they did before they
changed the protocol was they used nets. they'd throw a net over somebody. and people said, oh, you can't. that's so dehumanizing. but it was safe. you threw a net over somebody, when you didn't have to worry about how you removed them. it's easy to remove them. but they ended that protocol. and now i'll bet the protocol is is let 'em starve until they come out on their own. >> i don't know what the current practice is is. >> i don't either. but probably that's what it is. >> could you comment on the mayor having a third term and everything -- >> i supported that. i, from the very beginning i was for term limits but always for 12 years. and i am for that today, but it's going to revert back to two terms.
now, major bloomberg -- mayor bloomberg chose to have the city council change a law created by referendum. people think that's terrible. it's not terrible at all. the law that we have says that you can adopt a law by the city council, you can adopt it by refer dumb -- referendum, or you can adopt it by having the state legislature just impose it will which it often does on the city of new york. i thought that it was important that he be given an opportunity to run, and what was interesting was the outcome. the outcome was, i mean, everybody thought he was going to do a runaway election, and i think we won by four or five points is is my recollection. and the reason is very simple, at least as i see it. a huge number of people were very angry that he didn't seek
to have a referendum change the law, and they wanted to punish him. but they knew if they went to the polls, they would have to vote for him because there was no question that he was far and away the best equipped to serve the city. so that's a huge number who didn't go to the polls because they wanted to punish him and deprive him of their vote. the second large number that he lost were those who said what does he need me for? he's 15%s ahead cord the polls, why should i have to to to the polls? so you take those two groups, he was deprived of them and suffered the ig mommy of a very small margin of victory compared with the dollars spent. but i voted for him, i supported him, and i campaigns --
campaigns for him. >> okay. we have time for, i think, one more quick question, and that's it. >> [inaudible] >> you have a famous question that you've asked for many, many, many years. [laughter] and i think most of us here will agree -- not all because it's new york -- >> give me their names. [laughter] >> i think most of us will agree that you're doing just fine. [applause] >> thank you very, very much. >> so that's it! thank you all for coming. >> thank you. [applause] >> this event was hosted by the tenement museum in new york city. for more information visit tenement.org. >> every weekend booktv brings
you 48 hours of history, biography and public affairs. here's a portion of one of our programs. >> the reason i felt it important to do a book essay, because that's what it is, on the obama administration is because i think it's extremely important for progressive people not to create too many illusions about what's around because they don't help. and to see it in a hard-headed way what this new administration is, what it represents in terms of foreign policy, imperialist continuity and what it represents at home. and it's important to do that to understand to what extent it's different and to what extent it is continuing the policies of the previous three administrations.
not just bush and cheney, but clinton and bush sr.. and from that point of view the balance sheet i have prepared, the obama syndrome: war abrad and surrender at home -- abroad and surrender at home is not a pleasant task to write. [laughter] because, you know, when you see what's going on and read a lot of material which has been published on domestic policies, leave alone foreign policies, it's striking how different the administration has been. now, i know the restraints and constraints. i know that we live in a neoliberal period that te spite the crash of 2008 the system and its political leaders have not
attempted any serious structure or reforms which was, you know, necessary after that crash. and so the crash has not gone away, it's simply been blasted over with sticking plaster, and it is going to worry people and is worrying, certainly, progressive economists, many of them who are not that radical who say that it's not going to work. so here was an opportunity for a newly-elected president who was not responsible and couldn't be held responsible for this particular economic crash who had, unlike previous presidents, mobilized hundreds of thousands of young people in this country, brought them out into the streets to help him get elected and had created the illusion that they would do something.
i mean, yes, we can is not a very concrete slogan -- [laughter] but it offers some hope or at least creates the impression of offering hope. and so young people were happy, they were mobilized, and they taught that some change would take place abroad and at home. the balance sheet is what? let's first discuss briefly the continuity in foreign policy. now, the continue continuity inn policy was symbolized by keeping gates on at the pentagon. by essentially accepting the view that the surge in iraq had solved the problem. by sticking to bush's plans on a
so-called withdrawal from iraq without bringing about any change there at all, by pushing these plans through which are essentially very simple. withdrawing combat units from the main cities of iraq, building huge military bases in that country and keeping between 50-70,000 troops permanently, that is what the withdrawal is. and it is not new. the british tried it in the '20s and '90s. and it improsed. imploded. they threw the british out. and it's very likely in some shape and form -- not in the shape and form of the '50s -- but a similar thing will happen if these troops stay in there. on iran once again this administration has carried on with the old foils, essentially, in the case of ryen iran,
appeasing the israelis. the big pressure for not dealing with any work comes from the israelis who are prepared to do anything to preserve their own weapon technology. and the failure of this administration to break with those policies of the previous administration is not all that surprising because i remember as i point out in the book i was in the midwest teaching for four weeks in urbana-champaign, and i saw this young, fresh-faced guy running for for the senate calld barack obama, and i was at the house of friends, and they said, he is the great hope of democrats. and i said, well, let's watch
him. because i'm always interested in great hope. [laughter] and the great hope was asked, plush has said that it might be necessary to bomb iran and take out their nuclear installations or whatever they're doing, and what would be your position on that? i support the president totally, said the great hope. [laughter] so that was my first sighting of him, and i just felt instinctively that this is a guy who is really going to try to please. and he is a weak guy in many ways and is not going to par through some tiny shift in domestic or global policies. >> to watch this program in its entirety, go to become tv.org. simply type the title or the author's name at the top left of the screen, and big -- click